Friday, December 4, 2020

Smoky Air and Succulent Mixes

2020 keeps on giving in the worst possible sense of that expression.  A new round of high winds hit Southern California this week, setting off yet another series of wildfires, three at last count.  The largest, the Bond Fire in Orange County, has prompted another round of evacuations.  My own area isn't directly impacted but heavy smoke blew our way early Thursday morning and it's still with us.  The smoke was thick and the air quality shifted in to the unhealthy category yesterday so all work in the garden was off the table.

I took this photo mid-morning yesterday.  The boats off-shore mentioned in my prior post are still there but they're invisible in this photo.

Even though I've temporarily suspended work in the garden, I got some small jobs done earlier in the week, starting with replanting the metal wok I use as a succulent container in the south side patio area.

This is the "before" photo.  I planted this wok more than a year ago and it looked fine until summer arrived.  It got too much sun in this spot and I watered it too infrequently.

Mangave 'Tooth Fairy' was transplanted into a pot of its own in the hope that it'll begin to bulk up with better treatment

I picked up three new Echeveria to replace the Mangave as the focal point and filled in with cuttings taken from elsewhere in the garden.  I also moved it a few feet to give it more shade during the hottest part of the day.

In addition to the Echeveria hookeri I picked up at my local garden center last week, I included cuttings of Crassula pubescens, Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi Verde', Oscularia deltoides, and two other succulents I can't identify off the top of my head

I also tweaked the planting scheme on the front slope in the area adjacent to my lath (shade) house).

I think I'm done with this area for the time being, although I may move the Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' at the base of the short stone wall

This is a view of the same area looking down with the lath house in the background

The changes I've made since my November 20th post aren't monumental but I'm hoping the additions will help fill the empty spaces more quickly.  A tray of mail-order succulents from Mountain Crest Gardens got me started.

I ordered a mixed tray of 20 2-inch blue-green rosettes plus a few other plants.  The rosettes weren't labeled so I can only offer my best guess on their identities.  Clockwise from the upper left are: Crassula rubricaulis 'Candy Cane', Echeverias 'Abalone' and 'Blue Atoll', Mangave 'Pineapple Express', Sedeveria 'Fanfare', and Echeveria 'Raindrops'.

I thought the addition of a second mid-sized Aloe striata in the upper tier of the slope might help balance things out but, rather than transplanting one of these from elsewhere in my garden, I made do with a pup from a hybrid Aloe.

These pups come from an Aloe striata x maculata currently planted on the same slope.  I planted the larger pup on the slope and popped the smaller one into a pot to bulk up.

The Aloe striata I already had is shown on the left; its cousin, Aloe striata x maculata, is in the middle; and the pup of the latter is shown on the right.

I added a few other plants on spec, including a cutting of Echium handiense I managed to root from a cutting and a few rooted cuttings of Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard'.  The latter used to weave itself through Aeoniums on this slope and I'd liked the effect.

Other than some general dead-heading and garden clean-up, my other task was collecting fallen leaves and shredding them to start a batch of leaf mulch.

From my own garden, I collected fallen persimmon, Japanese maple and redbud tree leaves.  I discovered that the hedge and blow gardeners we employ had dumped masses of our neighbor's maple, gingko, and other leaf debris into our green bins (not unusual as they service several neighbors on the same day) so I scooped those up and shredded them too using the 'Leaf Hog' shown here.  It's basically a vacuum with a bag.

I've collected more leaves since this batch, which half-filled this compost bin

Our very dry and windy conditions are expected to continue well into next week.  Fingers are crossed that the fire fighters are able to extinguish the fires already burning and that no more crop up.  Rain would be a blessing as we've had just a twentieth of an inch thus far for the season starting October 1st but there's none of that on the horizon.  Unfortunately, we're facing a La Niña year, which in Southern California means persistently warm, dry conditions.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend whatever your weather.


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party







22 comments:

  1. It's all looking very good, Kris. We've gotten cold here at night so I am hunkering down in the house shifting things around, much as you are doing in your garden. Keeping California in my thoughts and sending wishes for rain your way.

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    1. Rain would be so appreciated right now but sadly it's not likely. We're still caught in an exceptionally dry cycle - we haven't even had a morning marine layer in at least a week.

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  2. I like the new plantings and given time, expect they will fill out nicely. The wok looks great and good score on the leaf litter. It is my favorite mulch and compost ingredient. After 30 years, my maples provide me with an ample supply.
    Fire season doesn't seem to want to end in CA, Nature is really dishing it out this year. I hope you remain safe and the smoke drifts well out to sea, away from you.
    Hope you have a good weekend despite all!

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    1. Unfortunately, the fire departments here now claim that our fire season is a year-round affair.

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  3. Definitely wishing you gentle soaking rain till the fires are out.

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    1. The last La Nina year we had (2017-2018, counted from October 1st 2017 through September 30th 2018) our rain total for the entire period was less than 4 inches in total. I hope we're not headed into another round as bad as that.

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  4. Gosh Kris I think it is amazing that you can garden without much rain even with growing all of these plants that don't need much rain. Your garden is beautiful without much rain. I wonder what would happen if your area received more. I hope the air quality improves quick for your area.

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    1. Without irrigation, much of my garden would be a dust bowl, Lisa. We actually had an extraordinary rainy season last year. "Normal" annual rainfall here is just under 15 inches but my location registered 24 inches between October and the end of April. (Our "rain years" are tallied from October 1st through the following September 30th.) It does make a big difference! Unfortunately, this looks like it's going to be a very bad rain year.

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  5. These damn fires. We had about 3/4" in our lone rain event . Because of the short days and the low sun my garden is still quite moist. N rain means frost and I have had lots of that , followed by days in the high 60's. I love how your wok planter turned out.

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    1. Usually, our morning marine layer helps out a bit even without rain, Kathy, but we haven't seen any of that for awhile now. Humidity levels have been stuck in the teens.

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  6. Wildfires have been so bad in California this year, and continued dry weather isn't going to help that. Here's hoping for some rain in spite of the forecasts.

    The smoke looks terrible. My FIL's sister-in-law and her husband moved out of No. California after the terrible Camp Fire in Butte County in 2018. I don't think they had to evacuate but they were scared and didn't want to live under the threat of fire anymore.

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    1. This has been the worst year on record for wildfires in California with some 4 million acres burned. With weather patterns changing due to climate change, scientists say we can expect warmer, drier conditions with persistent drought punctuated by periodic floods. My husband and I were both born and raised in SoCal but even we've talked of leaving.

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  7. Has been a tough year for air quality. I often wonder what's left to burn after so many fires. Your new area is coming along nicely. Will be gorgeous once everything hits their stride. Have been using our unseasonably warm weather to finish up garden chores and mulching. Wetter and colder weather will arrive at some point for us all.

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    1. The foothill areas always seem particularly hard hit by fires, at least in SoCal. Last year we got a lot more rain than usual and I suspect plant growth exploded, creating dry material to burn when conditions shifted back into dry mode. After the really bad rain year we had 2017-2018 when we got less than 4 inches of rain, I'm fearful of something on the same order this year.

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  8. It's nice were able to get some work done before the new smoke restriction.
    Seeing how 'Sticks on Fire' performs in the garden, as if on steroids, you may have to eventually pull it out as it could obstruct the lovely collection you planted on the slope (love those blueish tones and the one with the pink border).
    An old wok is on my "want list" for the next thrift store visit: great up-cycle idea and execution!

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    1. That metal plant stand came from my mother-in-law's garden when we cleared her home for sale after her passing back in 2013. It held a shallow metal container when I got it but that slowly disintegrated and I had a devil of a time finding a container the right size. The wok took very little time to rust to the right color. I suspect this one will disintegrate too one day but at least I now know where to look for a replacement.

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  9. Oh this year seems to be a never ending challenge of woe and disasters Kris ((())) I hope that the fires calm down soon. I imagine that the area must be in an absolutely desperate need of rain. Hope that you can get back in to your garden soon.

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    1. The last report I saw had the Bond Fire at 30% containment yesterday. The wind decreased here and hopefully that's true in the affected area as well. I heard a forecast of more dry winds on Tuesday, though. I spent some time in the garden on general cleanup today as the air quality was somewhat better.

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  10. Sorry about your smoke again. We were just commenting when we saw the news last night how awful it must be for some with many of those people there with Covid, death and fires causing evacuation. Hopefully no houses burning this time. I like your succulent creation. I have to redo these kind of planters every couple of years because the succulents don't stay tight. Maybe because it is too hot here to have them out in full sun. And your leaf vacuum. I could do with one of those. Must take a look. I used to have a blower that you could reverse into a collector. Is that what yours is? Could use the shop vac but it is horribly cumbersome.

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    1. Yes, that's exactly what my Leaf Hog is. I never use the blower, just the collector. It's a bit cumbersome, though. I have to be careful not to allow the bag to get too heavy - it makes a mess if the bag comes off in the middle of running the thing.

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  11. Oh no, not more fires, I have asthma and it makes me feel wheezy just looking at your photo. What a year this is for you, awful fires,covid and Trump's out of control craziness. Let's hope for better things in 2021.
    I love your succulent arrrangements, what a lovely selection you have.

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    1. The smoke during the first day of the Bond Fire was worse than I can remember - my chest ached for an hour or more after I came back inside - but then it may be that I'm just less tolerant after so many of these events. I'm hoping for better things in 2021. This year is certainly among the top 3 worst years in my lifetime.

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